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portraits of christ IV

to the
four gospels


critical minds
contemplative hearts


with Fr. Vincent Pizzuto, PhD


August 29 – October 10 
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
(Pacific Time)

Father Vincent Pizzuto, PhD is Professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Mysticism in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the (Jesuit) University of San Francisco. He received his doctorate in New Testament Exegesis from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium (2003) and has since published and presented internationally in the areas of New Testament christology, ecological discipleship, marriage equality, inter-religious dialogue, Christian mysticism and contemplative Christian spirituality. In 2018 he published his second book, Contemplating Christ: The Gospels and the Interior Life with Liturgical Press; translated in Spanish, Contemplar a Cristo: Los Evangelios y la vida interior, (Desclée de Brouwer) in January 2022. As an Episcopal priest Fr. Vincent serves as Vicar of St. Columba’s Episcopal Church and Retreat House in Inverness, California. Working for the advancement of contemplative Christianity, he has reinvigorated the mission and ministry of St. Columba’s through the introduction of contemplative eucharistic liturgies, public lectures, online courses, directed retreats, thought provoking sermons, an online blog and a weekly online study of his book through the Meditation Chapel.


The Suffering Son of God

In this fourth semester of our “Portraits of Christ” series, Fr. Vincent will continue to explore the structure, theology, and literary ‘brush strokes’ of Mark’s gospel. Our last semester concluded with Mark 5, which narrates the dramatic scene of Jesus' exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, the healing of a woman suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, and climactically, the raising of Jairus' daughter to life. Typical of Mark, this last story ends with Jesus admonishing his closest disciples not to tell anyone of his resuscitation of the little girl. However, the next chapters will move us steadily toward a radical shift from a Jesus whose identity is shrouded in secrecy and consistently misunderstood, to a gradual unveiling of his deepest identity as the messiah whom Isaiah prophesied as "the suffering servant" of God.

This semester will bring us up to the end of Jesus' public ministry (Mark 10), just before he enters Jerusalem to meet his fate on the Cross. Full of rich and poignant stories, we will see more of Mark's "intercalations" (i.e., "Marcan Sandwiches") in which he tells stories within stories to great dramatic effect. We will learn of many healings, raising children from the dead, and of the thorny theological issues raised by Mark's reference to Jesus' "brothers and sisters" (cf. Mk. 6:1-5). We will examine the story of the beheading of John the Baptist, the fascinating implications of the two versions of the Miracle of Loaves and Fishes (Mk. 6:30-44 and 8:1-10), and the astonishing story of Jesus' walking on the water. Perhaps most poignantly, we will cross over the mid-way point of the gospel (Mk. 8:22-26) and observe the startling transition that take place after that pivotal moment: The Jesus who is profoundly misunderstood throughout the first half of the gospel is now gradually unveiled precisely in and through his suffering. The overarching theme of Mark's portrait of Christ as "The Suffering Son of God" will open the way for us to understand the original audience of Mark's gospel and the suffering they endured throughout extended periods of persecution.

Mark’s gospel is as rich as it is compelling, full of hidden mysteries, messianic secrets, and wisdom teachings that reveal far more theological depth than its apparent simplicity would suggest. In this ongoing exploration of Mark's gospel, we will continue to explore not only the text in fine detail, but the interpretive tools that assist us in revealing his ancient message to the modern Church. Especially designed for contemplatives, this fourth in our series of classes will continue our rich, meditative, and stimulating exploration of the Mark's gospel in ways that ground the life and practice of contemplative Christians today.


To interpret the gospel of Mark through modern tools of interpretation in view of the ancient context in which it was written

To uncover the literary ‘brush strokes’ throughout Mark’s gospel that reveal his portrait of Christ as the “Suffering Son of God”

To understand the literary genre of Mark not merely as objective history, but as history told through the lens of theology

To foster for contemplatives the capacity for a more prayerful rumination and "Lectio Divina" on Mark’s gospel


  • Seven live weekly online zoom presentations by Fr. Vincent, held on Tuesday's from 11am-1pm PT, from August 29 through October 10, which will be recorded and shared with participants to facilitate their own self-paced study of the material.

  • Seven live weekly office hour sessions with Fr. Vincent, will be held on Wednesdays, from 4pm-5pm PT, from August 30 through October 11, for all participants who would like more personal attention in dealing with matters of faith, scriptural interpretation, or the general content of the course. Office hours will be recorded and shared with active participants enrolled in the semester.

  • Media-rich "Captivate Lectures" that also can be watched repeatedly at your own pace.

  • Online break-out sessions that allow small groups to work together in order to interpret, collaborate, and pray with various scriptural texts


  • Full access to relevant educational tools, including: charts, graphs, maps, timelines, summaries, published articles, videos, presenter notes, personal journals, prompts for Lectio Divina, and worksheets all designed to engage participants in learning how to interpret the gospels with critical minds and pray them with contemplative hearts​


Cost: $175

Generous scholarships available

No one turned away for lack of funds


I am interested in the course but cannot commit to any or all of the Zoom meetings. Can I still register?

Yes! All of the Zoom meetings will be recorded and made available the following day to all participants whether they are able to attend the session live or not. If you need to miss any or all of the meetings due to scheduling conflicts, you can review the recording at your own pace.

I wish to take the course but have limited financial resources. What should I do?

Full and partial scholarships are available for those in need of financial assistance in order to ensure that no one is turned away from our programming for lack of funds. If you are in need of financial assistance, simply indicate that in our confidential online application form. If you have any questions about your registration, our administrator, Anna Haight may be emailed here.

How do I contribute to the Scholarship Fund?

The St. Columba’s Scholarship Fund is an essential way we ensure that no one is turned away from our programing. For those who are able to afford an additional amount toward our Scholarship fund, simply indicate the amount of your contribution in the PayPal form. We very much appreciate your generosity. All monies donated to our Scholarship fund are put into a restricted account to be used solely for the purpose of providing those in need with access to our programming. While our workshops do incur a cost on our staff and facilities, Fr. Vincent does not accept any financial renumeration for any portion of the funds raised by this course. His dedication in producing meaningful content, reflective of our mission and vision, allows us to provide rich offerings to all who wish to participate.

I have not taken the previous three semesters of Portraits of Christ, can I still take this course?

Yes! While these courses slowly build upon previous semesters, each one stands on its own merit. If you have not taken any of the three previous courses in this series, they are now available on our website as self-paced online courses. These may be taken before, during, or after our upcoming Fall 2023 course. Please note that scholarships are available for all current as well as previous courses in this series. Simply indicate your need for a scholarship in our confidential online application form. Again, no one is turned away for lack of funds.

I am unfamiliar with the Bible. May I still take this course?

Yes!  Anyone who is interested and willing to put in a bit of effort will learn much. The course is designed to move at a gradual meditative pace with many opportunities for self-paced study throughout the week between the live Zoom presentations. 

What materials do I need to take the course?

Participants should have access to a critical English translation of the Bible. Access to the New Revised Standard Version can be found at Bible Gateway free of charge. Ideally, however, a printed copy of the Bible will be better. Since we are studying the Bible in English, it helps for various participants to have different versions of the Bible as this can illuminate how nuances in translation effect meaning. To that end, Fr. Vincent recommends the purchase any one of the following three versions. Please click on the underlined price for each version to link directly to that edition.


The New Revised Standard Version (Oxford Annotated Edition)  Soft Cover: $16; Hard Cover: $34

Benefits: Among the most critical modern English translation produced by the National Council of Churches. This is the version used on Sundays in the Episcopal Church as well as many mainline Protestant churches.

The New Jerusalem Bible (Study Edition)  Hardcover: $73

Benefits: This is the version Fr. Vincent will teach from throughout the series. However, some may not consider this correspondence a ‘benefit’ because having alternative translations helps us to see potential variations in meaning.

The New American Bible (Anselm Academic Study Edition)  Paperback: $36

Benefits: This is the version used on Sundays in the Roman Catholic Church.

Other Materials Needed:

Computer or other device with WiFi and Zoom access.

A notebook: For those who wish to print and collate the materials presented during the course, we recommend a three-ring binder.

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